Chapter 2 : Kate Makes A Friend
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Claire Upton punched me.
She punched me in the face.
She punched me in the face and it hurt.
That monster smacked Martha away from my hands and slugged me right in the kisser.
I will word it a thousand different ways until I can wrap my head around that fact.
Not even a girly slap like expected, but a full on wind up and swing kind of punch.
And if that wasn't enough, they shot a Jellylegs Jinx at me so they could laugh as I tried to both stop the bleeding from my nose and walk on wiggly legs to the Hospital Wing.
I've never been good at jinxes, either delivering them or removing them.
Bet they knew that.
Once I finally managed to get to the Wing, Pomfrey removed the jinx, fixed my broken nose, and led me to a cot so she could try and help the swelling around my eye.
She got the swelling down a bit, but she's having trouble with the bruising.
Ancient Pomfrey tutted as she rubbed ointment on the purple area and sighed, "I think you may have to let this heal on its own, dear."
"Oi, a little help!" A voice grunted from the door as two boys shoved their way inside.
One of them had wings instead of ears, and they were flapping wildly while the other boy was hanging onto bird boy's ankle for dear life.
"Oh, dear!" Pomfrey cried, hurrying over to them and trying to help.
But my gaze wasn't fixed on the boy trying desperately to stop the flight of his wing-ears, but on the other bloke tugging on bird man's ankle.
What, is my life now suddenly a cliché filled rom-com for middle-aged women to enjoy?
Oh merlin, I hope not.
Well, this is sort of hideously embarrassing.
Not twenty minutes after my first ever semi-normal conversation with the guy, he's going to see me in a cot with dried blood on my face and one of my eyes purple and swollen practically shut.
I'll probably be forever fixed in his mind as the freak he remembers me to be.
Me, being me, I surreptitiously reached over to the bedside table and grabbed Martha, removing the lens cap and bringing her up to my good eye.
These will be amazingly hilarious when I develop them.
I smiled and placed her back on the table and grabbed my wand, pointing it at my face and muttering "tergeo", feeling the dried blood leaving my skin.
You're the best.
"What happened?" Pomfrey exclaimed as they managed to immobilize his ears and bring him over to a cot.
Wing-eared boy opened his mouth to answer and emitted an alarmingly loud squawk and buried his face in his hands.
Albus scratched the back of his neck when Pomfrey turned to him, "I'm not exactly sure what happened. We were in Charms, practicing how to make birds appear from our wands, and I guess Curkin's wand must've backfired."
Of course it did.
Oliver Curkin's possibly as much of an accident prone loser as I am.
He also happens to have a few tattoos and smokes cigarettes.
You'd think that would make him some kind of badass in the eyes of the student population, but no.
He's a socially awkward dork.
And the whole school knows it.
Pomfrey tutted and began muttering to herself, shooing Albus dismissively away.
He patted Curkin's shoulder bracingly before turning to leave, spotting me, and stopping short.
He furrowed his brows and pointed at me, saying slowly, "You did not have a black eye the last time I saw you."
Of all the people to bring Bird-man Curkin to the Wing, it had to be him.
I smiled slightly while my cheeks reddened, attempting to be confident but my voice coming out quiet anyway, "Your observation skills are astounding."
He rolled his eyes and shook his head, smiling slightly, "What happened?"
How exactly do I say "your psycho girlfriend punched me in the face" nicely?
I swallowed and looked at Pomfrey tending to Curkin, "Nothing."
He scoffed and raked a hand through his hair, staring at me incredulously, "So you just spontaneously developed a black eye?"
Why exactly is he pursuing this?
I'm the Freak.
He should be glad to be able to drop it and go back to class.
I looked down at my hands in my lap, "Spot on."
He shook his head, continuing to look disbelievingly at me, "Yeah, bullshit. Why won't you just tell me who hit you?"
Because you are getting all up in my business, bro.
Introverted misfits like myself are not used to probing questions.
Also, we just exchanged practically our first words to each other not twenty minutes ago.
I do not know you, really.
And another little thing, you probably won't like it if I tell you that your girlfriend is a violent monster.
Just a thought.
Time to lie my way out of this uncomfortable place.
"I ran into a wall."
Brilliant job, brain.
It's obvious you perform spiffingly under pressure.
He raised his eyebrows, "A wall."
"Yes, a wall. An unfortunate accident."
"A wall hit you in the face."
What part of my unoriginal lie is he not understanding?
He quirked his head to the side, "You walked into a wall so hard you got a black eye?"
I nodded quickly, looking anywhere but at him.
He shook his head, actually smiling at me, "You're not a very good liar."
"Well I don't see how it's any of your business." I mumbled, attempting to sound dismissive so he'd leave and I could wallow in self pity.
He looked surprised but smirked in a mischievous way that made me uneasy, "Well it's everyone's business if there's a violent wall out there, attacking innocent girls."
A snort and a voice sounded from the other side of the wing, "Yeah, if by violent wall you mean crazy bint."
It seems as though Pomfrey fixed Curkin's squawking problem.
Albus turned towards him, arms crossed, "Come again?"
Curkin sat up in bed, wings still firmly attached to his head while Pomfrey tutted loudly and bustled to her office, muttering about kids these days, "I said a crazy bint punched her."
Of all that is good and holy, please dear merlin make this boy shut up.
Albus looked at me with a questioning brow raised and I shrunk down on the cot, looking at the highly interesting blanket beneath me instead of him.
What a lovely and mysteriously stained bed cover.
He turned back to Curkin, "Go on."
Curkin smirked amusedly at my glowering expression, "Pyscho Bitch Upton and her posse of bimbos cornered poor little Austin and punched her right in the kisser."
Albus whirled around to me, eyes wildly and unnecessarily concerned, "Are you serious?"
But I ignored him and looked over to Curkin, "How do you know all that?"
He simply shrugged, "I was there."
Uh, no you weren't.
I squinted at him, "No you weren't, I would've seen you."
He tilted his head to the side and gave me an appraising look, "I would've thought you of all people would understand. It's easy to go unnoticed when you're invisible."
This kid is blunt.
Kind of refreshing.
He's also sort of an arse for casually observing my being assaulted and not doing anything about it, but whatever.
Albus came right up to my bedside and frowned, "You sure Claire Upton punched you?"
It's one of those things you vividly remember, probably forever.
I squirmed but nodded once.
He raked his hand through his hair frustratedly, looking so confused it was almost comical, "I don't get it. Why would she hit you?"
Does she need a reason other than that?
When I took too long to answer, Curkin called over, "She thought Austin was trying to take her property."
I'm definitely just begging for your assistance on this subject.
Albus looked puzzled, "What property?"
Curkin raised an eyebrow at me, as if to tell me that it was my cue to speak.
This is so mortifying.
Time to gather up all that courage that us Hufflepuffs seem to be overflowing with.
"You." I said, in a very small voice, my cheeks flooding with color.
Albus stared at me in shock, eyebrows raised past his hairline, before surprising me by throwing his head back and laughing loudly, the sound reverberating off the walls, "Oh Merlin, I am not dating Upton. That girl is way too unstable for my taste."
I am officially mortified.
"Then… then how come she told me you were together?" I asked, wincing both as my eye stung and at the forwardness of my question.
He scratched his neck awkwardly and shrugged, "Not sure. Probably like Curkin said, she's crazy. But I plan on finding out for certain when I make her apologize for punching you."
Did I hear that right?
I stared at him incredulously, "Pardon?"
He smirked down at me, "I may not know you very well, or at all, really, but I do know that you aren't going to stick up for yourself against bullies like Upton. So I've decided to do it for you."
Well excuse me, knight in shining armor.
Get back on that white steed of yours and ride off into some other girl's fairytale.
Surprising even myself my voice was steady and clear as I said, "I don't need rescuing, Potter."
He raised his brows and gestured at the hospital bed I was in, "Looks to me like you do."
My cheeks coloring even further, I looked determinedly at his forehead instead of those patronizing green eyes, "You're wrong."
He merely shrugged and gave a small smile, "We'll see."
And with that cryptic farewell, he left, sauntering out of the Hospital Wing and closing the door as he went.
I slumped back on the pillows behind me once he'd gone, putting a hand over my face and cringing when it irritated my bruise.
I heard bedsprings creak to my left and removed my hand to see Curkin in the cot next to mine, fingers crossed in his lap and looking at me steadily.
"He's got a thing for damsels," was the first thing he said to me.
I stared at him blankly, "Excuse me?"
He nodded towards the door, "Albus Potter. He's got a fixation with damsels in distress."
I frowned, "I'm not in distress."
He smirked, "You got punched in the face today. You should be distressed."
Boy makes a fair point.
I thought about it and nodded, "Yeah, alright. But why me? I'm probably the one girl who doesn't want Albus Potter to rescue them."
There's something disarming about Curkin that makes him very easy for even a quiet freak like me to talk to.
Probably because he's just as shunned by the student population as I am.
All the same, it's rather nice.
He shrugged, "Why not? You're obviously on the receiving end of more than your fair share of trouble, so you fit the bill nicely. He's done this loads of times with girls in need of a good hero."
"How do you know all this?"
Very informational, slightly creepy.
He smiled somewhat sadly, "You get quite observant when there's no one to talk to. Plus, you live in the same dorm for seven years with a guy and you get to know the bloke."
I sighed, "Well that explains the attention today. Hopefully he gets this out of his system soon and moves on."
Albus is nice enough, but he belongs in a different world than me.
A world that I can't even begin to understand.
Curkin laughed, "Yes, you seemed quite overwhelmed while he was here. Although I should warn you, Potter's not really one for quitting once he's started on something, what with his Hero Complex and all. Especially since you seem so resistant to his help. I'm Oliver by the way," He said, leaning over the space between the cots and offering me his hand, "Oliver Curkin. School punching bag."
I shook it, "Kate Austin. Receiver of all ridicule and petty name calling."
We sighed, leaning back on our respective pillows and staring at the ceiling like old comrades.
Today has been one of the weirdest, most painful, yet exciting days that I've had in a long time.
That fact is slightly depressing.
But perhaps some good has come out of it after all.
"Hey Oliver," I said slyly, glancing at him and smiling slightly, "Have you considered making those dashing ear-wings permanent?"
He grabbed the pillow from behind his head and threw it at me, grinning.
I laughed as I caught it and chucked it back at him, hitting him in the side of the head and causing a few feathers to fly up from his ear.
He swore loudly, causing Pomfrey to storm out of her office and berate him for a solid ten minutes.
I couldn't stop the giggles that bubbled up inside me.
"It's still so weird over on this end of the hall." Oliver whined, looking around the Hufflepuff table at lunch two weeks after 'the brutal and unjustified yet totally epic attack' as Oliver puts it.
I rolled my eyes but smiled as I ladled soup into a bowl, "You don't have to sit here, you know."
Oliver huffed and stole my bread roll, "And let Upton and her merry band of loons get ahold of you? Nuh uh. It's my Gryffindor duty to protect you. Y'know, since I didn't before."
He's been saying that every day.
And every day I roll my eyes and grin, knowing that he's really sitting with me because we enjoy each other's company, and he's too much of a pansy to say it outright.
But I'm just fine with that.
We've both found someone to eat meals with, to sit with in classes and to lounge about with on the weekends.
You could say that I'm beyond stoked to finally have a friend.
It seems odd to me now that we've never connected before, with us both being in the same loser boat and all.
I guess we were too wrapped up in being sorry for ourselves to notice one another.
Who'd have thought it would take a wonky spell and a punch in the face to form this friendship?
"You're too noble for your own good, Oliver." I sighed, dramatically placing a hand to my heart.
He nodded, sighing gravely, "It's something I have to live with everyday."
I laughed and he smiled.
This is nice.
It'll take me awhile to get used to having someone to joke around and laugh with.
It'll be a happy adjustment, let me tell you.
Oliver nudged me in the ribs, "He's doing it again."
My head didn't snap up towards the Gryffindor table like it had all the other times he had said it in the past two weeks. Instead, I stared into my soup bowl and said, as nonchalantly as I could, "Good for him."
Oliver scoffed and nudged me again, harder this time, "Come on, Kate. You don't find it the littlest bit interesting that Albus Potter has been staring at you for a fortnight?"
He tugged on a lock of my hair, trying to get me to look up, "You're lying."
He snorted, "What else is new. Why don't you go talk to him? He clearly wants you to."
Why yes Oliver, I'll just go right ahead and do that. Then I thought I might hula dance in the middle of the hall. Naked. And on fire.
Or something as equally ridiculous as nakedly hula dancing on fire.
Wow, my brain sometimes.
I shoved him lightly, "He does not want me to go and talk to him. You just want me to embarrass myself for your own entertainment."
He scrunched his nose up at me and smiled, "Only slightly. But honestly, that guy is begging for you to go chat him up."
I quirked an eyebrow, "Oh he is, is he?"
"Yes. With his eyes."
My loud laugh surprised even me as I tilted my head back slightly, "So, what? You can read eyeball now?"
He narrowed his eyes at me but smiled, "Yes. Fluently."
I opened my eyes wide and stared unblinkingly at Oliver, "Okay. What am I saying?"
He stared back, just as intently, "I believe your eyes are saying, 'Holy hell, Oliver Christopher Curkin is bloody smokin.'"
I snorted and shoved him away from my face, "I think you need some refresher courses in the study of eyeball."
He shrugged, "I'll admit, I'm a little rusty, but even I can tell what Albus Potter's orbs are shouting at you."
I shook my head and grabbed my book bag from beneath the table, "You're ridiculous."
"And you're a coward." He smiled to show he was teasing.
I ruffled his hair as I swung my legs over the bench and stood, "Yes, well, nowhere in the Hufflepuff Handbook does it say we have to be brave. Only just and loyal. And to occasionally sneak into the kitchens." He looked at me doubtfully so I patted his shoulder, "Trust me, you're plenty brave for the both of us."
He gave me a look, "Don't think flattery will make me forget this discussion. And where are you going?"
I had already taken a few steps towards the doors, "Library. I've got to finish up my Muggle Studies essay."
"Are we still taking more of your weirdo pictures tonight?"
I winked at him, "Of course."
If I have to write one more sentence on the function of a light switch, I might have to hurt someone.
Most likely the person who invented the light switch.
There isn't even that much to say on the subject, either.
You flick it up, the light goes on.
Flick it down, light goes off.
How the bloody hell am I supposed to stretch that out into two feet of essay?
Whoever said this class is a soft option deserves a kick in the shins.
I pushed my reading glasses higher up on the bridge of my nose as I stood to look for a book that might help fill a foot and a half of space.
My hopes are not high.
I wandered over to the Muggle Inventions section and ran my fingers over the books' spines, looking for anything that sounded even close to relevant.
I stopped halfway down the aisle and squinted at a shelf a bit above my reach, spotting a book titled, The Kite and the Key: Benjamin Franklin and the Further Advances in Electric Discovery.
Eh, close enough.
I felt the pockets of my robes for my wand to summon the book down before realizing I left it with my bag back at the table I'd been working at.
I am far too lazy to go back and get it.
Time to make a fool of myself.
I stretched my arm out to its fullest extent and glanced around quickly, saw the coast was clear, and jumped.
Needless to say, I missed.
I frowned, shrugged out of my robes and dropped them to the floor before I reached my arm out even further, standing on my tiptoes and wiggling my fingers towards the book before making another feeble jumping attempt and missing it again.
"You will be mine, Benjamin Franklin." I muttered darkly to the book that was tantalizingly close and yet so far.
Muffled laughter to my right caught my attention, causing me to whirl around and see an amusedly smirking Albus Potter leaning against a shelf not far from mine.
I pressed a hand to my chest, "You scared me."
His amused expression didn't waver, "I am truly sorry about that."
I gave him a small smile before looking back at the book that was unhelpfully high up, "Yes, well, you should be. Hufflepuffs are gentle creatures that are not to be startled."
I frowned, staring unseeingly at the shelf in front of me.
Did I just make a sassy comment to someone who isn't Oliver?
And it didn't come out as a mumble?
My my, I do believe some may call this progress.
Albus didn't seem to notice this as an important event and replied almost cheekily, "How can I ever make it up to you?"
I glanced over at him, "There's no need. Puffers don't do grudges."
He stepped closer, smiling down at me, "Well, Gryffies do chivalry, so may I fetch that book for you?"
Why is he being so playful with me?
The most beloved boy in all of Hogwarts is being overly friendly with the least liked girl.
I just don't get it.
How does that happen?
I tilted my chin up, "I can get it myself."
He cocked a brow and gestured towards the book, "By all means, go ahead. It's very entertaining to watch."
I blushed and looked in the direction of my feet, mumbling, "What are you even doing over in this section of the library?"
Way to be friendly, Kate.
The guy's actually being a decent human being to you and you have to screw it all up by being your usual social queue-less self.
Albus cleared his throat, causing me to look up and see him scratch the back of his neck awkwardly before he looked up and gave me a winning smile, "I needed a book." He blindly reached into the shelf next to him and pulled out a book and put it in front of my face, "This book, to be exact."
I squinted at the title that was directly beneath my nose and read aloud, "Modern Muggle Medicine and its Uses in the Modern Muggle Woman's Menstrual Cycle."
It's his own fault for leaning up against the M Section.
Albus was very red, "It's uh, it's for my sister."
I struggled not to laugh, "Right. Course it is."
There was a beat of embarrassed silence before Albus cleared his throat and said, "Your eye seems to have healed up well."
Okay. I know he didn't really come here to make awkward small talk and pick up a book on girl's periods.
So what's he up to?
I nodded slightly, saying softly, "Was there something you wanted, Albus?"
He looked taken aback and cleared his throat for the millionth time before looking down at his feet, noticing my discarded robes on the floor and glancing back up at me with a sly grin, "You know, you're in clear violation of the dress code. As a prefect of this school I really should dock you points for that."
Is he honestly dodging the question right now?
I am becoming legitimately concerned.
Why is he still standing here, talking to me about the dress code that even he's in violation of with his lack of tie?
Is he stalling so his friends can pour Bubotuber pus on me?
Oh merlin, I really hope not.
In my panic I replied with the weirdness my brain produces that I usually keep in check, "As a concerned student of this school I really should dock you points for being a creep and picking up a book on a girl's changing body."
Albus stared at me before laughing, "It's not on changing bodies, it's the menstrual cycle! There's a difference!"
A passing student gave him a startled look before hurrying away, probably to tell her friends that Albus Potter is talking to the Freak about menstruation.
Albus shook his head at me, smiling, "Great. Now the whole school will know I'm studying up on periods."
I shook my head back at him and gave him an awkward half-smile, "Well, I should really be getting back to my essay. See you."
I started to walk away before he could reply, and heard a "Wait!" from behind me.
I turned back and saw him take my book from the shelf with ease before striding over and holding it out to me, "Don't forget your book."
I bit my lip, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable by the person and the length of my last conversation, "Oh, thanks."
I walked away before any more could be said and strode very quickly back to my table, leaving Albus rooted to the spot behind me.
It's too easy for me to talk to him.
That fact alone is enough to have me panicking.
It's never been easy for me to talk to anyone, besides Oliver.
I began gathering all of my things quickly, shoving everything into my bag without care, just wanting to put as much distance as possible between myself and him.
I heard movement behind me but didn't dare turn around, pretending to clean my glasses with much concentration.
Footsteps walked towards me until I could feel their presence to my left, "Kate? Don't think I've forgotten about Upton apologizing. I will make it happen."
I whirled around, the words "Don't bother" on my lips, but Albus had already gone.
A/N: Apologies for any grammatical errors, I'm trying to get this out there as quick as possible! Hope you enjoyed it, I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)
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